The Concept of Perfectionism

Updated: Sep 16

In today’s society where we’re surrounded by images of perfect models and celebrities living their best life in the city or traveling abroad, or where we’re constantly bombarded on our phone with the latest news about an amazing 16 year old activist who’s attempting to change the world, we often get caught up in our own minds. We question what we’re really doing with our lives, and whether our work is significant enough to make ourselves matter.


I think that perfectionism is a term that encompasses a lot of mental states, whether it be striving to be the best for ourselves, our family, our friends, or society as a whole. And while it is good to push your limits to try to achieve even more, I feel as if perfectionism blinds a lot of people and causes them to stray away from what goals and ideals are deemed to be mentally healthy. Perfectionism is detrimental when taken too far, because we lose our identity and become a shapeless being that constantly wants what’s in the future, but loses sight of what they’re achieving in the present.


But what exactly is perfectionism?


The Oxford dictionary states:

A “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.” Does this mean we’re constantly pushing away the subpar? What if the mediocre is the best we can achieve right now because improvement is a constant upward trajectory?


Or rather, what if we told ourselves that what we’re doing right now is perfect because perfect has no definite standards?


The concept of perfect seems like an enigma to me. When people describe “perfect” there’s not really a certain standard because “perfect” is so biased. If you were a singer, being “perfect” might mean hitting every note with perfect tone and pitch while engaging perfect breath. However, to your listener, “perfect” constitutes just having the bravery to sing in front of a crowd and sound nice.


The thing is, the definition of “perfect” changes once you reach your former ideal of “perfect”, and as it keeps morphing itself into progressive forms, perfectionism becomes detrimental and self-confidence decreases to a point where a lack of “perfect” is all that defines you to yourself.

Other people aren’t asking you to be perfect. Teachers aren’t asking you to be perfect; they just want to see you improve. Family isn’t asking you to be perfect; they just want to see you happy. Partners aren’t asking you to be perfect; they just want to see you for being you.


Perfectionism catches us in our own mind and is resistant to let us go, but embracing the idea of self-growth is the only type of “perfect” society needs. Self-security is beautiful. Let that ideal define perfectionism.


It doesn’t have to be a religion that we dedicate ourselves to everyday, preaching in our heads everything we aren’t yet. I prefer to focus on everything I could be, and then settle on the things that I am right now and how they will undoubtedly shape themselves to become greater if I keep working on the steady pace that I’m at right now.


I understand that rejection can make us fall into our own mental traps and make us wonder why we aren’t perfect enough to be accepted by a company, group, person, etc. Rejection isn’t always a reflection on who you are and what you strive to be though; everybody has their own standards of what they want and because there’s such a diversified land of ideals, we go back to the idea that “perfect” doesn’t have a simple definition or a complex one. It simply doesn’t exist.


Don’t let perfectionism drive your life. In the end, a journey without a destination becomes tiring and unfulfilling, and striving for something that doesn’t exist generates more feelings of unhappiness and uncertainty. Security in what you’re doing right now is beautiful, and knowing that great things lie ahead doesn’t mean that you’re not great right now. Any form of self-growth is extremely impressive, and that gratuitous feeling of being impressive can take the place of the feeling of needing to be perfect.

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CHLOE CHOW

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